The Disappearance of Reed Grayson
By Jordan Taylor Clark
'Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind...'
- W.B YEATS
The blue waves swirled below Reed Grayson in a steep, steep drop. The rocks embraced the wind and the water, even as they broke upon them with such ferocity it caused a violent, upward spray of the sea. Reed remembered the beginnings of a rainbow stemming from the water’s depths to the uncharacteristically bright August sky. The clouds moved quickly here, above this green, immaculate landscape, seemingly with other places to be. Reed liked feeling small to these cliffs she stood upon. It set her in her place. Made her truly understand the beauty of them. Their true vastness, their true dangerous allure. As she stood on the edge of this earthly wonder, all she could picture was herself slipping, perhaps by accident, perhaps by God’s wrath, or, what worried her more, perhaps her own accord, and feeling that momentarily weightlessness of the fall, the euphoria from the fear, of simply belonging to the air and at the mercy of gravity, before the fateful moment of plummeting down to those depths that possessed such a symphony of power. Someone told her once you’d look like a bag of potatoes, no longer a human with insides, just broken limbs and still blood with skin barely holding it all together. She imagined the redness of her innards and body would be swiftly washed away from those glorious waves and return them to the grey, Irish sea.
What a place to die, she thought. On her way here, their tour guide made sure to explain in great, morbid detail about how fellow tourists had lost their lives on these muddy cliffs. One stood out to her in particular. There was a teenage boy, apparently quite the daredevil, who leaned against the ledge to have those powerful gusts of wind keep him up. But, those winds, as fickle as they are, blew in another direction, leaving him to do as all things do if they lean too far over - fall. Before he did, he reached out to a friend for help. He grabbed onto his other young teenage friend’s shirt and pulled him down with him. They both died at the bottom of those rocks. Reed imagined herself, firstly, as the one to do the falling. Then, as the one to be dragged down with him. Then, finally, as those passing by, trying to enjoy a day at a new place and witnessing something like that happen. These stories stuck in her head and made her keep to the well trodden path, far from the edge. But it didn’t keep her there long.
“For Christ’s sake,” Jesse said a few feet behind Reed. Apparently she didn’t want to even take the chance to venture any further beyond the predestined walk-way. “Get back from there. You’re making me nervous.”
Reed seemed to awaken from her friend’s presence beside her, pulling her thoughts out of those gray waters beckoning her. Jesse’s blonde hair was twisting up above her so she kept trying to tuck them into her sweater to no avail, constantly pulling at the tangles as she spoke and looked out to the view. She was from here, well, Dublin, anyway. She had a very sweet voice and laughed often and had those nicely rounded, blue eyes that made you feel safe when you were caught between them. Reed was lucky to find such an acquaintance by chance. She had found that people around here actually liked to help others in a more genuine sense. As someone who constantly dissected people’s actions and motivations, it was a refreshing thought that someone wanted to help merely for that reasoning alone.
After the Cliffs of Moher, they traveled back to Dublin by car. Jesse liked talking to Reed about America or as she asked, ‘what the fuck is going on over there?’ as they passed through the rolling, green landscape. Reed laughed and shrugged. She didn’t really know what was happening after all. Just that she wasn’t too keen on returning anytime soon. As a girl from California, it was especially funny to the locals that she would end up in a place like Dublin. It was so dreary, so dark and small compared to the open vastness of her home. What could have possibly drawn her out from the sunshine and movie stars to come here? There were many reasons, some superficial and some not so much. But what Reed really felt was that it was a place she didn’t necessarily ‘fit’. Oddly enough, she felt more at home on those cobbled streets surrounded by strangers than on the land she was sprung from. There was something warm and cozy about it, yet something else that took her from all that made her complacent. That made her fearless. Well, at least, more open to fearlessness and open to discovering all that she could be. She didn’t explain that to Jesse though. No, Reed just said, “I like it here.” Though, Reed knew she didn’t necessarily ‘fit’ in Dublin, either. She wondered if should would ever fit anywhere.
Others assumed a man brought her to Ireland because no young lady uproots herself unless a man is involved. Some called her brave for doing it all on her own. Some, like her mother, thought it a stupid idea. It was running away from her responsibilities. It was irresponsible to live like that. But, to Reed, it was some sort of rebellion and self-fulfillment. This was her dream and now she fashioned it into her reality. This was how she always wanted to live and she was doing it. Plus, she had no idea what she was supposed to do now after graduating college. It’s not like she had any plans other than this one. She was figuring it out, she said. A few months alone and I’ll find out what to do. The taste of this kind of life, she thought, would bring her out of the black hole she dug herself in. At least, she hoped.
They finally reached home in Lucan, Dublin, to a small townhouse with a gravel yard in the front and cow mailbox next to the doorway. That would be the initial identifier for Reed when she first started staying there. The sun was still out because the days during the summer months were long and endless. It was something she’d remember and think back to fondly when the winter hid the sun for months. Even for someone like Reed, who was pale and the bearer of skin that despised even the slightest touch of the sun’s rays, found herself missing it and longing to go outside to feel it’s warmth. Seasons never truly existed in California and this was probably the first she’d ever experienced. Though she was one who relished in the cold and hated the incredible heat of the valley she came from, the Dubliners prided themselves as survivors of this weather, telling her to ‘brace herself’ as September and October came around. “If you think this is bad,” someone said to her. “I don’t think you’ll make it past December.”
“Thanks for taking me.” Reed said to Jesse as they both exited the car.
“Oh, of course. I haven’t been in a while myself.” Jesse unlocked the door to the house. “Now I know you’ve got a wild streak in you. There were so many times I couldn’t even look at you standing so close to the edge. Fair play to you, though.”
Reed laughed. “Well, I noticed a lot of your tourist attractions have a bit of risk to them.”
Jesse laughed too. “Yes, we like to keep you on your toes.”
Jesse made tea and they sat together and talked for a while.
“So what do you want?” Jesse said after a brief interlude of silence.
“What do you mean?” Reed replied.
“Like, what do you want from this trip?”
“Well, I guess to travel a lot. Experience some things. Figure some other things out.” Find out where I’m supposed to be and get over this fucking depression, she thought to herself.
Reed frowned and Jesse laughed.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be intrusive.” Jesse said, waving off her inquiry in hopes to not offend.
“No, it’s okay,” Reed said with an amused smile. “Let’s just say I’m not entirely sure. That’s why I thought I’d just wander around while I can.”
“Ach, so you’re just a bit misplaced?”
“Lost is probably more accurate.”
“No, you’re just not where you’re supposed to be yet. Maybe you’ll find out while you’re here.” Jesse took a gulp of her tea and so did Reed.
“I hope so.” Reed said.
Jesse then rolled a cigarette and they huddled by the patio door and smoked before finally saying goodnight. That became a nightly ritual whenever they’re schedules aligned. Reed knew she would miss those the moment they were finally over.
Reed had a room to herself. It had a full bed with a bright yellow flower comforter. She was grateful for that pop of color in the otherwise dull room. However, tt was much nicer than the room she stayed in before with the loud boy who pet her hair one night when they drank and smoked together outside. The morning after, he asked her on a date to which she rejected. That ended with him trying to salvage the moment with an impromptu dance between the two. Reed shouted at him to let her go when his arms grasped around her and pulled her tensed body towards his. So, needless to say, she was glad to be out of there and with Jesse.
The window blinds were open and she looked outside. The sun was gone now but a few remnants of light remained so that she could see that large ivy hedge across the road from her. There was what looked like an opening between the branches and the leaves, making a sort of archway into the land behind it, though it was completely pitch black on the other side. She stared at it for a while. If there were to be a place that lead someone to another world that would be it, Reed thought. Finally, she shut her blinds and went to bed, dreaming of herself swimming in those gray waves with her skin gray too and blood coming from cuts all over her body. However, she didn’t find it terrifying in the least while she dreamt it. She felt free.
In the days before her employment at the pub in town, Reed would spend her days wandering around Dublin. She was finally acquainted with the Dublin Bus etiquette and found it thoroughly enjoyable walking around in her own little world. Though a small city, there was plenty to see and experience. So many little nuances and delights that she feared she would miss if she glanced around too quickly. She walked Phoenix Park and finished reading a book while sitting on a tree stump in a meadow. She saw the infamous reindeer that took up residence in the park and fed an apple to one. Everyone was outside during the summer. There truly is nothing like a sunny day in Ireland. There’s a general buzz of excitement in the air. It made them worth waiting for, worth getting excited about. There was something about anticipating a good day and a bad day. It made you realize just how good a day could really be.
Next to her home, there was a hiking trail where a river flowed through, aligned with tall trees that carried long, spindly branches that seemed to try their hardest to reach down towards you. Every once and awhile, teams of people used this river to kayak through those rushing tides. Reed thought she might want to try that while she was here. She didn’t though. She also saw ‘fairy homes’ stuck to the sides of the towering tree trunks and loved that such whimsical things were cultivated in the community. A few others existed just outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A whole colony of them, or rather, neighborhood, as she liked to think of it. This one here had the name ‘Jeff’ written on the tiny, colorful door with the placard reading, ‘Say hello! This fairy sees everyone!’
“Hi, Jeff.” Reed said with a smile.
There was a rustle beside her near the water’s edge. She took a few steps forward to investigate, sinking her boots in the mud.
“Hello.” A voice whispered. But Reed never saw who spoke to her.
Reed’s time at the Emerald Isle made her lighter after the first few months. Her own self-diagnosed treatment was working. A part of her was a bit fearful when she found it hard to get out of bed during her first days on the Irish soil. How could that happen when she was doing what she wanted? But the summer unthawed her and breathed a bit of life back into her melancholy eyes. She saw them lighten as the dread and hatred slowly dissipated into the back of her mind. Having them in the forefront, steering like they were, had really done her in. She had almost forgotten what it was like to think of other things than her own self-loathing and disgust. She’d always been a melancholy child with nothing to really be melancholy about. But at the tail-end of her collegiate years, something happened to her. That broodiness and sadness transformed into something more malignant. It became a permanent state instead of a passing mood.
It lasted two years. Each day was worse than the next. She’d have a few weeks of some ease until it came to her heavier than before. And Reed kept this all to herself. It became her companion in her isolation. She withdrew, she struggled, and when she told her mother she replied, “You artists. You’re all so dramatic.” Reed had wished she had never spoken her hurt to anyone. It only confirmed all she thought to herself. It made her weak, made her as useless as she thought she was. Made it all seem like she was just throwing a tantrum instead of questioning her mere meaning of existence. So here she was, trying to find it again. But that odd sensation remained. Like she was still an obtuse object in this world, still unable to reside in it like all others did, like she wasn’t necessarily meant for it.
“You don’t really act like you’re American.” A boy said to her. He had a sweet face with a head of tightly curled, black hair. She was fond at staring into his deep set hazel eyes.
“Thank you?” Reed replied. In the matter of how things were in her homeland, she assumed that was a compliment.
“Maybe you do belong out here.” He said and she liked hearing him say it.
“I only hope.”
“How long do you plan on staying?”
“As long as the money lasts.”
“So is it? Lasting?”
Reed shrugged and gave a vague reply. Truth was, all that was anchoring her back home was the hooks of finances and family. And, of course, the fear of those darker, heavier days that would surely be back once she returned. They were waiting patiently to consume her again. They knew perfectly well this was only a short stint of lightness. Reed hadn’t figured out all she thought she would. If anything, she was less clear on how to get what she really wanted in life. The part of her that sometimes missed that dreariness even hated the thought of letting it back in because there was no promise that it might ever leave again.
The only remaining symptoms of her darker, heavier days from America were the dreams. Those terrors that woke her with a scream, that made her scared of sleep, made her see shadowy figures in the blackness of her room. They had tormented Reed enough that she created a routine before sleep to avoid them. It was as follows :
Light a lavender candle next your bed (to de-stress)
Spray lavender onto your pillow (to relax)
Give yourself an hour to read before bed. TV will only stimulate you. If you don’t give yourself ample amount of time to rest, you’ll stress yourself out because you’ll be scared you won’t be able to fall asleep. Insomnia or nightmares will be sure to follow.
Guzzle a few melatonin (not lavender, shockingly)
Put on a podcast with soothing voices so you don’t listen to the wretch in your head.
If the dreams still get you, repeat steps 3,4, & 5.
These kinds of nightmares had returned but changed. Perhaps they altered with her new setting. Once when she was gazing out at that countryside on her way to the North, she said, “I want to get lost out there forever. I hope to never be found.” It was the most mythical place she’d ever been. The type that inspired and it was seeping into her. There was always a hint of magic to this land, as if, in any second, she’d walk through the lush green wood and fall into another world altogether. Most days, she hoped for that. Now, with her looming flight back to America on the horizon, she pleaded for it. All she could read now was about Irish folklore to simply entertain her wild fantasies. So now, her dreams set in these legends, didn’t necessarily terrify her but tended to weave themselves into her days. She’d doze and see them around her again. They didn’t only exist in the night like her other, frightful ones did.
Reed once dreamt of herself in the Liffey River, floating through it peacefully. She felt the water caress her, coo at her, calm her. Like a mother would to a child resting easy on their lap. Her long hair flowed with the white ripples behind her and in this dream, she too, was dreaming. Green, gentle hands came up from under her. They held her up in this stream and kept her moving. One found the nape of her neck and gave her support. Another touched her lips with it’s fingertip and Reed kissed it.
“Stay in the Blackpool.” A tender voice said in her ear. Reed’s eyes opened and then, those green hands took hold of her lily skin and wrapped them around her throat. She didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she appeared grateful for it. They pulled her under and she woke up in a pool of sweat in her bed.
On her way to work, she crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge and took a moment to gaze out at the water below her in hopes to see a pair of swans gliding through the city. She did this often. Like she knew she had to memorize this place as much as she could before leaving. Every small aspect of Dublin became sentimental to her. The damp and ashen smell, the grey days, even the bus. But, as she took in this fair city, she saw something staring straight back up at her. She glanced down back at the lines of a face in the black water. It seemed to be looking at her and only her. She leaned over the railing, her feet just slightly lifting off the bridge. Reed briefly peered around her to see if anyone else, anyone at all, had witnessed what she did. The face, a woman’s she gathered due to it’s softly drawn features, smiled to her.
“What ya doing?” A passerby said to her. Reed fell back on her feet. She didn’t say anything to the concerned girl. She just went on. Later, she would laugh about it.
“There’s still so much to see,” Jesse said, rubbing her temple with a cigarette between her fingers. They both were sitting at the patio door, their cold tea just beside them. “It’s just hard traveling in winter.”
Jesse passed Reed her the cigarette and Reed took a long drag.
“You’re not ready to go, are you?” Jesse asked.
“No.” Reed replied. “Not at all. If anything, I’m more lost than I ever was before.”
“Still misplaced, you mean.”
Reed sighed. “I guess.”
They both stared out to the pitch black sky. Winter nights were always so bleak. It made Reed think there was always something lurking outside there.
That night was when she really began to worry about the state of her mind. Stress had done plenty odd things to her before. Made her mad, of course. But this was something else all together. She had been quietly crying in her room. Reed hated not knowing what to do, especially when it came to her own goddamn life. Was I living it right? What was I doing wrong? What am I supposed to be doing? What is my meaning? Did I even have one? Would I ever like life or would it always be such a hard thing to do? Would it just be like this for my remaining years? Or would I die off early and never be what I was supposed to become? Just wasted potential and useless space filling this overpopulated world? These cruel thoughts came back to her, over and over again. Reed found it hard to resist them. To distract herself. They made her gut cold. Made her nights worse again. But then, she heard her name.
“Reed.” It said. At first, it sounded like it came from inside her room as a whisper. She stopped her crying and the hair on her skin jolted upwards.
“Reed.” It said again. This time, it was just outside her window. Hiding there.
She got up and looked to the window. A street light streamed through the cracks of the blinds and it calmed her to think that whatever was outside the house couldn’t hide from that light. There was a figure standing there by that ivy hedge, next to that archway in between the leaves. It’s shape looked like a man’s but...something was odd about it. She couldn’t see a face but it seemed as if it had a tail fluttering behind it like a cat’s, gently swaying from side to side. Suddenly, a thought came to her about what the figure was. She watched it enter that archway in the brush and disappear altogether.
Without thinking, she left her room and went out the front door.
“Reed.” The whisper came again with a flush of wind. “Reed.”
Reed walked towards the opening in those leaves, that opening that greeted her every morning and night. She always felt like it was watching her when she walked past it. That it could see her in her room as she ravaged and raged, that it knew what she wanted. As she got closer, the wind became fierce and the misty, slating rain came next. The leaves of ivy jostled with the disturbance, excited for her nearing presence.
“Reed.” The voice was next to her now. She was so close and she didn’t feel afraid. It was almost like she was leaning in for a warm embrace, inviting whatever called to her.
“Swinging Jesus, what are you doing out here?” Jesse said. There was a hint of concern but that was hard to hear over her chattering teeth.
Reed paused with her hand outstretched to those now still leaves. The cold hit her and she realized she was only in her pajamas, her feet bare and wet on the cement. She turned to Jesse and couldn’t think of an explanation.
“Were you just sleepwalking?” Jesse asked. That was quite logical to guess, Reed thought.
“Seems like it,” Reed replied. Then, after a moment, “I’ve never done that before.”
Jesse only laughed and called Reed over to her.
“You’re mental.” Jesse laughed again as she ushered Reed back inside the warmth of the house. Reed glanced once more to that opening in the ivy. She thought she saw a pair of glowing eyes following her. Yeah, Reed thought. I guess I am.
It was the day. The day of the subsequent return to her home. Though, it had never quite felt like what that vague word alluded to. She had her roots but they never stuck to her. She had her family that she loved dearly, her incredible friends who were anxious for her return. Reed had missed them and sometimes, longed for them to be with her here. But, she had no trouble on her own and she knew she’d wish to be plucked from her “home” again and taken to another unknown place if the opportunity ever presented itself. She would never stop trying to find the place where she ‘fit’. It saddened her but also gave a bit of purpose and clarity to a mind that was so filled with confusion.
Jesse and Reed had said their goodbyes the night before. It was much more restrained than Reed thought she would make them. She hated that it would be nearly impossible for her to express her gratitude. She had also gone out with her other friends until the sun rose. They all said they’d visit her back in sunny California. She didn’t realize how much she’d like that until they said it. All her plans were set and hope for any chance at staying had died.
“Are you excited to see me?” Her mother said through the phone.
“Of course.” Reed said.
Her mother heard the disappointment. “Well, it’s time to get back to reality. I’m sure you’ll be able to visit later in life.”
Later in life. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” Reed replied.
“Love you, too.”
Reed dragged her luggage behind her. She struggled to roll it across the gravel yard of that little townhouse with a cow mailbox next to the doorway. The sun was actually out that day but the clouds looked angry above her, all twisted up and silver and ready to wring out at any moment.
She walked to the bus stop with her large 50 pound luggage filled with the clothes she had worn for the past 8 months and passed that little opening in the hedge, just as she always did for the 25 bus. The wheels on her baggage squealed to a stop, though. Reed had paused her journey without really understanding why. She turned to that archway of leaves. It now looked ordinary. Just a simple fracture in a man-made barrier to the small patch of land behind it. Nothing more, nothing less. She peered into it and didn’t see anything peculiar on the other side. Just more of the same green that existed all around her here.
“Screw it.” Reed said. She let go of her luggage and the handle slammed to the ground without her assistance holding that amount of weight upwards in place. Reed marched to that queer doorway, partly to quiet that little voice saying, just see, Reed, just see if it’s true if it’ll help you, what’s the harm in that? And partly to prove to herself that the world she was in had no room for any miracles like the one she hoped for now. So she went through this archway and passed through those leaves that gently grazed her as she did and she laughed to herself about how absurd this all may seem to someone else. But, she also closed her eyes and felt tears come from them. Please, please, please, I’m tired of being so lost. A gust of wind came then and it took those tears right from the corners of her eyes.
After Reed Grayson went through the ivy that day, she was never seen again. The little archway in the leaves vanished along with her. Suddenly, that brush was whole. Someone had seen that large, bloated piece of American luggage and knew it belonged to the only American in Lucan. Jesse called and called and couldn’t reach her friend. People assumed the worst. It all looked so bad. Especially for someone like her. Many of those that knew her best knew that she was struggling with the idea of returning home, that the darkness she held onto was metastasizing again. Perhaps she did something to end it, perhaps someone had ended it for her in a brutal way. Perhaps she did what she always wanted to do and just disappeared. Jesse hoped for the latter. For some odd reason, she found that to be the most likely of scenarios, even as a self-proclaimed pessimist. She walked by that ivy every once and a while and thought she heard an American accent call out to her. Jesse smiled. She merely hoped her friend wasn’t so lost, or rather, misplaced, now. That she had finally found the place she was meant to be in. Some place she finally ‘fit’.
About the Author
Jordan Taylor Clark is an emerging writer who has recently published a novel chapter in The Write Launch and enjoys writing stories that help her make sense of whats going on around her. She spends her time trying to finish her first novel, traveling whenever she can, reading the endless amounts of books she buys, and watching all the films she has on her ever-growing 'must-see' list.